Spike Lee boycotts ‘Django Unchained’ to avoid being ‘disrespectful’

Director Spike Lee
Director Spike Lee

Spike Lee doesn't have much to say about Quentin Tarantino's new film about a slave-turned-gunslinger. When it comes to "Django Unchained" he simply won't watch it.

"It'd be disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That's the only thing I'm going to say. I can't disrespect my ancestors," Lee told VibeTV in a recent interview.

The director, known for films that examine race relations including "Do The Right Thing" and "Red Hook Summer," took to Twitter to further explain his position on "Django," writing, "American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western.It Was A Holocaust.My Ancestors Are Slaves.Stolen From Africa.I Will Honor Them." [sic].

Some have dubbed the film Tarantino's "Southern" -- a play on the fact the film's title borrows from 1966 Italian spaghetti Western "Django," includes Western film elements, but is set in the South. And as Tarantino does, he creates hyper-real comedic moments during scenes depicting grotesque violence. One is to assume Lee is not laughing when it comes to Tarantino's stylized take on slavery.

The film depicts several torture scenarios slaves endured -- and no, Tarantino doesn't make a joke out of those horrors. The slaves, including his leading man Django (Jamie Foxx), are the protagonists of the film for the most part -- with the exception of Stephen (Samuel L. Jackson). But Tarantino has admitted he took some artistic license. "When slave narratives are done on film, they tend to be historical with a capital H, with an arms-length quality to them. I wanted to break that history-under-glass aspect, I wanted to throw a rock through that glass and shatter it for all times, and take you into it," the director said recently in an interview.

Indeed, historians are saying that slaves fighting to the death -- a key subplot in the film that now appears to be simply Tarantino's fictional brainchild -- has never been proven to have happened.

[Related: Leonardo DiCaprio’s real blood is in ‘Django Unchained’ scene]

A fan tweeted back at Spike Lee, saying he was taking the film too seriously. Lee replied, "Wrong.Birth Of A Nation Got Black Folks Lynced [sic]. Media Is Powerful. DON'T SLEEP. WAKE UP YO."

Lee has criticized Tarantino before over his 1997 film "Jackie Brown," which starred '70s blaxploitation film actress Pam Grier and frequently featured the n-word. "I'm not against the word... and I use it, but Quentin is infatuated with the word. What does he want? To be made an honorary black man?" Lee said in a past interview with Variety.

And the n-word is said at least 100 times in "Django," which has, by the way, earned five Golden Globe nominations and Oscar buzz. "Django" also broke box office records its opening day, bringing in $15 million -- the highest Christmas Day gross for an R-rated film.

Oddly, "Django" star Jamie Foxx told multiple press outlets -- including Yahoo! Movies -- in prior interviews that he spoke to Lee at the BET Awards and that Lee promised he wouldn't speak out against the film. It seems he changed his mind.

[Related: Jamie Foxx tells Yahoo! Movies of a confrontation with racism during his youth]

Oprah Winfrey, however, gave "Django" her seeming stamp of approval, calling the film "provocative," "twisted" and "hilarious" on Twitter. Other stars including Kanye West and D.L. Hughley have also praised the film.

Comedian Sarah Silverman weighed in on the debate, telling TMZ, "Doesn't it take place like during slavery? Wouldn't it be odd if they didn't have that horrific word in it?... [Spike Lee's] got a lot of mishegas with a lot of art. I think you can't really tell art what to do."

"Django Unchained" is in theaters now.

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